Saturday, January 22, 2011

Just Say No -- To Yoga Guilt!

When I first started practicing yoga, I had this idea of what a yoga student should be like. They're obviously health nuts who are incredibly fit, morally and ethically responsible, and have amazing self-discipline. Somewhere along the line I got the idea that yoga students should be, well, perfect. So I spent a lot of time feeling guilty about the fact that I, in fact, was very far from perfect. When classmates discussed their raw food diets or recent trips to an environmentally-friendly spa, I would be quitely (pardon the expression) sweating like a hooker in church. After a few years of yoga under my belt, I now know that this was really REALLY stupid.

Feeling guilty doesn't help us reach our health goals. It doesn't make us happier. And it certainly doesn't help us to change our habits or make us better, more balanced people. In fact, feeling guilty about the things that make you who you are is directly contradictory to the practice of yoga. Instead of feeling guilty about something, I'm trying to learn to accept it, admit that no one is perfect, and move on! It doesn't mean that I stop striving to be better. It just means that I stop beating myself up about being who I am.

Here are 5 things I'm choosing not to feel guilty about any more...

1. I am not the picture of health. I guess the most unhealthy thing I do is consume mass quantities of sugar. I'm a Southern gal that grew up on sweet tea ... and it goes straight to my thighs. However, I consider it as much a part of my culture as Krishna is to the ancient yogis and I will not (EVER) give it up completely. Don't even THINK about trying to talk me into it. Oh, I also love potato chips, and and I watch more television than really any person really should. But, this is all a part of who I am. And yoga teaches us to celebrate who we are in this moment, not some fake, idealized version of who we want ourselves to be in the future. So, there it is.

2. I do not meditate and/or practice every single day. My television habit could be partially to blame, but there are days when I'm simply not in the mood for all this yoga crap (yes, I did say yoga crap and no, I'm not sorry). It's usually just when I've had a bad day and, admittedly, need my yoga practice the most--but I'm not always rational enough to see that in the moment. I almost always remember why I love this practice so much the next time I get to my mat and realize I was crazy for skipping a day... which is punishment enough.

3. Sometimes, I'm not nice. Here's the thing about being human... It's not always pretty. Sometimes people are jerks, and yoga students are people, too. You get where I'm going with this? No one should expect you to be perfect just because you practice yoga. And those people who might expect perfection, like I did when I first started practicing, don't know much about yoga ... so screw them! (See? I told you sometimes I'm not nice!) 

4. I hate reading ancient yoga texts. They're just so ... boring and hard to understand! I'd rather read a yoga memoir, magazine, or blog any day of the week. I learn better from my peers who write in normal, clear, easy-to-understand English. As of now, I see no reason to sit and torture myself with the Yoga Sutras when I can be inspired, educated, AND entertained by the works of a modern writer instead.

5.  I like things.  Shiny things, stretchy things, new things, old things, big things, little things... I just like things! I know, I know.. Shocker! And I like people, too (most of the time). So I'm never going to be like the ancient yogis who gave up all their material things and went to live in isolation in a cave somewhere. I keep aparigraha (non-grasping) in the back of my mind--which helps me come to a place of balance. But I believe I can can live a modern lifestyle and still reap at least some of the benefits of yoga, and that's good enough for me. 

What things have you felt guilty about since you started practicing yoga, and how has the practice helped you to overcome your feelings of guilt?